Dazzling in its eye-popping animation and surprisingly effective in its story, “Rise of the Guardians” breathes life into the concept of faith when experiencing movie magic — something families may be able to use a lot more in this day and age.
DreamWorks has had a long hit-and-miss history in my book, and I was certain “Rise of the Guardians” would be a miss. Whereas some like “Antz,” “The Prince of Egypt,” or “Shrek” proved to be worthy of my attention, others have been either too average (“Over the Hedge,” “Madagascar,” “Bee Movie”) or too dreadful (“Shark Tale,” “The Road to El Dorado,” “Megamind”) to think about.
And who would’ve thought what was expected to be nothing special turned out to be decent? That’s the kind of feeling I experienced while watching “Rise of the Guardians,” and it makes me wonder why the magic of animation is, for the most part, gone.
The Guardians — Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Sandman, are responsible for maintaining the timeless beauty of childhood, be it wonder, hope, memories, or dreams. The only non-Guardian, Jack Frost, on the other hand, is only interested in using his abilities for the occasional winter laugh.
But when the spirit of nightmares, Pitch (the Boogeyman), begins to engulf the world in an all-consuming wave of fear, the quintet must confront this notorious adversary to protect the beliefs and imagination of children throughout the world.
Adapted from William Joyce’s “The Guardians of Childhood” book series, I was taken aback – no, flabbergasted – by the dramatic nature of this film. While there are a couple moments of comic relief, this computer-animated feature is very much an intense fantasy adventure that relies more on storytelling and themes and less on gags and pop culture references.
Watching “Rise of the Guardians” almost felt like re-experiencing trusted childhood classics such as “The Land Before Time” or “The Brave Little Toaster.” This return to the old-fashioned way of telling a story via animation is a sight for sore eyes. By the time I stepped out of the theater, I could not believe I once expressed skepticism towards this film. Oh, how far we moviegoers have fallen as a result of our disturbing lack of faith!
Visually speaking, DreamWorks has outdone itself once more. Their mastery of animation continues to prove itself again and again, no matter the project. Each character bears a striking individual appearance while retaining some of the basic traits associated with him or her. The display of supernatural powers is even more impressive, particularly whenever Sandy utilizes his control over dream sand and Pitch conjures up nightmarish images with a touch of his fingers. And if that’s not enough, Jack’s control over ice is as articulate as what we might see during the winter months.
Chris Pine succeeds in bringing out the reluctant hero’s purpose as the voice of Jack Frost. Alec Baldwin imbues the high-spirited North with a Russian charisma that meshes quite well with his swashbuckling dexterity.
Hugh Jackman may be taking some time off from his superhero role of Wolverine, but his quirky yet tough performance as Bunnymund indicates he is by no means a disloyal coward. Isla Fisher achieves a stable balance between Tooth’s willingness to fight what she stands for and her perky, almost motherly personality. Jude Law relishes going to any lengths to spread Pitch’s malevolent influence; I noticed how much his antagonist bears a striking resemblance to Lord Voldemort of the “Harry Potter” series. And while the character of Sandy does not speak through words, his granular take on sign language is an amusing delight to witness.
“Magical” is too common a descriptive term when it comes to animated features; in the case of “Rise of the Guardians,” it feels rather appropriate.
I can only hope that we, being the moviegoers we are, will find it in ourselves to start believing in films and know whether they are good or not regardless of our preconceptions. Why? I was wrong and this one was right.
When: Now playing
Where: Wide Release
Run Time: 1 hour 37 minutes
Rating: PG for thematic elements and some mildly scary action